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20151218_161947The nave was full, and of course, because it was the evening of the annual Children’s Christmas worship service.

We don’t do things like many other churches these days. We are what some might term “old school.” In the broader denominational discussion, you will probably hear it referred to as “traditional.” In the end, for us it translates to mean that we don’t have projector screens. We don’t have rock bands. We don’t allow flash photography. The pastor wears vestments and preaches from the pulpit. We follow a lectionary. We adhere to the Church Year calendar. We subscribe to the historic rites and ceremonies. Our church naves and sanctuaries are maintained as places of reverence, and everything in those worship spaces communicates as such.

Our Children’s Christmas service occurs in our church nave. And because of what I just described to you, you can probably guess that we are highly mindful that the event is not a show. It isn’t a pageant. It is a worship service – the rather ancient Office of Evening Prayer – and the children are incorporated into appropriate roles of service during the event. If it were any of the other things I mentioned, it wouldn’t be happening in our nave. It would happen in our gymnasium.

Before the service begins, because we know people are quite capable of losing their minds when they see cute little children holding candles and singing hymns, we gather the children together in place for a photo opportunity. It’s during this time that friends and relatives have the opportunity to take the pictures that would be forbidden as distractions during the service. This is also the time when I remind the men to remove any head coverings, for all to turn off their cell phones, and finally, to repeat for parents the instruction to retrieve their children from their respective classrooms after the service has concluded.

The photos were taken, I gave a kindly and welcoming bit of instruction, and then the children proceeded to their places and I filed down the side aisle to get into place as well.

I passed a young gentleman, maybe in his late twenties, still wearing his stocking cap. The following is a general, but still precise, summary of what occupied the next five minutes of my life as a clergyman.

“Sir,” I said softly standing to the side of a condensed row of people, “thanks for being here. If you wouldn’t mind, would you please remove your hat before the service begins?”

There was dead silence. He refused to even acknowledge my presence. And to make sure that I was fully aware of the snuff, he looked away while most others in the row turned their attention toward me.

“Sir, again, I’m sorry to bother you, but please remove your hat. It’s our practice here at Our Savior that men remove their head coverings here in the nave.”

“I’m not taking my hat off,” he said snappily.

“Sir, please take your hat off before the service begins. This is our practice and it is maintained out of reverence for Christ.”

“Kiss my ass,” he chided below his breath still looking away.

I moved through the people in the row directly behind him so that I could get to a place where I was nearer to his ear.

“Sir, this is the Lord’s house,” I spoke more softly. “It is a house of Christian worship and prayer, and I am asking you kindly and humbly to remove your head covering.”

Leaning back slightly and turning to look me in the eye, “Where does it say in the Bible that I have to take my hat off?”

It’s a good thing that I am relatively able to maintain during situations like this because my first thought was to ask, “Sir, do you even know what a Bible looks like? Have you ever actually seen one?” And my second thought was to suggest and perhaps probe, “Sir, how about instead, you show me in the Holy Scriptures where it says that you are allowed to wear that stupid looking hat. And while you are there, show me where it says you are allowed to drive a car, wear jeans, or eat the onion-laden coney dog I smell on your nasty breath. You’re an idiot, aren’t you?”

But I didn’t say any of those things. Instead, I rattled off three particular texts for him to read, and in the following order: Romans chapters 2 and 3, 1 John 1, and 1 Corinthians 11. No verses, just chapters.

“There’s a bible right there,” I motioned. “Take a moment and read those particular chapters.”

“Which ones again?” he asked with an arrogance that suggested he was surprised that I was able to meet his challenge with some evidence.

I repeated the list in the same order, but then concluded, “And while you are reading, take your hat off.”

He reached for the pew bible in an agitated huff and started flipping through as though he were actively searching for locales with which he was already quite familiar. Of course, he was searching in the Old Testament. All of the texts I gave him were in the New Testament. And his hat was yet to be removed.

I stood right behind him at ear level and continued to urge him to take his hat off. The folks around him – folks who were obviously his friends and family – were becoming increasingly uncomfortable at his brazen discourteousness. He kept flipping around in the Bible for a moment longer, and then after another request, he finally reached up and pulled the stocking cap from his head. I thanked him and went to my position in the service processional.

I think a combination of the fact that he knew I would not leave until his hat was off and the embarrassed stares from his family provided enough encouragement for a changed mind.

By the way, only one of the texts I suggested, 1 Corinthians 11, actually says anything about head coverings. The first of the other two, Romans 2 and 3, speaks to God’s limited tolerance with deliberate and obstinate sin. In other words, God will only allow it for so long before judgment is leveled. The second, 1 John 1, allows for the reader to see that if we step away from that obstinacy, God is merciful and will forgive. I hope he actually reads these texts.

Now, before I get to the review, I have one last thing to offer here.

Hey, Millennials — no, not all of you, just the ones like this guy — who the hell do you think you are?

What is it that has convinced you that you can walk into a particular context and expect the entirety of that context – all of the doctrine and practice arising from within a setting of 2,000 years of devotion – to be instantly retooled to meet your individual desires? And who do you think you are walking into this well-established circumstance with the expectation that because it wouldn’t reframe itself to you, you have the right to be incensed enough to accost the clergyman, distract the worshippers, and make a scene?

Before you answer, consider the following three propositions.

First, you need to know that while there are tons of churches out there trying to sell themselves – ready to be anything and everything to anyone and everyone just to get you through the door – there are plenty of other churches out there that are more interested in being faithful to Christ than accommodating the world. Be careful, because you might just bump into a church like that; and as nice as the people inside may attempt to be, you’ll probably walk out having had your poor little feelings hurt.

Second, at some point you need to realize that many of those churches were most likely around long before you were a wink in your mom’s eye and a smile on your dad’s face, and they will be around long after you have breathed your last.

Thirdly, you might want to consider that the current plague of radical individualism has so infected and consumed your brain that you are in dire straits, unable to think rationally or clearly, and in need of desperate help.

Just think about it.

To all others awaiting a review…

After an interaction like this, I couldn’t wait to get home and pour a dram. This time around it was a Speyside gem – the Aultmore 12.

The nose of this whisky is kind of rascally. So much so, I wasn’t sure if I was leaving one confrontation at our Children’s Christmas service for another. Straight out of the bottle, there is the scent of apple vinegar, but once it makes it into the dram, there are other fruits at work, and with that, there is a difficulty in really identifying them. I’d say that the most prominent is citrus — a lemon. Soon thereafter comes Golden Delicious apples and white table grapes. With a drop of water, there is orange juice and an almond hint.

The palate delivers a reasonable helping of malt while stirring up the citrus fruits once more, except now they’ve been baked. The almonds begin to fade in the medium finish, leaving behind what is a sense of warmed and pulpy citrus fruit cocktail.

Having now experienced this particular edition, I am intrigued to try the 21 and 25-year-old editions. But I suppose the better revelation here is that it is a good thing that I keep all of my whiskies at home and nowhere near my church office. Had there been a bottle nearby, the temptation to throw one’s hands into the air in a moment of extreme frustration very well could have overtaken me; and back in my office, having consulted with the aqua vitae, I might have discovered a more enthusiastic vigor and gone back out to negotiate with our stubborn visitor. Had this occurred, I’m pretty sure the situation would have been far different from what I described.